On the Cotillion Ballroom

19Oct07

As we descend the wide, curving stairs to make our entrance into the Cotillion Ballroom, we look up and observe six — no, eight! — crystal chandeliers hovering above us, massive structures roughly the shape of upside-down umbrellas, each one magically suspended under the 30-foot ceiling. This is a grand interior space reminiscent of those we have seen in movies and photographs of the old world; walls are covered in damask and adorned by a series of equally massive sconces, bisected versions of the chandeliers that lie flat against the wall; tall potted palms complete the effect.

We are far from alone in this promenade; the air is heavy with gossip and expectation. Have we arrived for a wedding or a dance? No, it is a collection of attorneys gathering to discuss the nuances and implications of a recent decision handed down by the Supreme Court; it is the aristocracy of the new gilded age, with titles bestowed by chief executives instead of kings and queens.

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